I am regretting my rant about hypochondriacs somewhat, as I have a sore, ‘grated’ throat and swollen glands today and am feeling particularly sorry for myself (although I’m told my husky voice is quite sexy). I really fancied a day in bed, but my Britishness dictated that I must turn up to work drugged up to the eyeballs instead, blow my nose ostentatiously, generally cough and splutter over my colleagues and propagate my germs more efficiently through the air conditioning system.
Plus it’s bonus/evaluation time of year, so a bit of conspicuous martyrdom can’t hurt.
I’m a secretary. There, I said it. Or Personal Assistant if you prefer. Quite frankly I don’t give a damn what you call it: I’ve had roles where I virtually ran the office where I was a ‘secretary’ and others where I did mind-numblingly tedious work as a ‘PA’. The title in itself doesn’t mean a great deal.
In my various incarnations I have worked for a team of investment bankers (fast moving, lots of arrogant people, well-paid), for a start-up (don’t talk to me about stock options), in the office of the president of a luxury goods empire (free perfume, good Christmas presents, rather stifling atmosphere) and now for a small English firm (Cadbury’s chocolate, Tetley tea, beers after work).
After university my only goal was to live in Paris and learn to speak French like a native. First I taught, and once my time on the exchange programme was up, I decided to do a bilingual secretarial diploma. What I first saw as a well-paid, stop-gap job while I worked out what I really wanted has become what I do and who I am. And I enjoy it: organising things/people appeals to the bossy, obsessive side of my nature. The fact that I have to work in French keeps me on my toes. But while I’m not ashamed of being a secretary, I can’t help feeling that I was supposed to have more ambition, that I owed it to myself to aim higher, that I haven’t done myself justice.
The downside to this job is that my longevity often depends on that of my boss. I have left more than one company because my boss did, and I had no desire to be ‘inherited’ by someone I had no affinity with. Affinity is also a problem – it is important to get on well with one’s boss, but not too well or else the rumour mill will crank into action and before you know it the entire office assumes you are having a torrid affair.
I recently watched the film ‘The Secretary’ (odd but intriguing), which has left me with some rather disturbing mental images.
I don’t see any parallels with my job. But please excuse me while I just go and pick up a fax with my teeth…